On March 15, 2017, the Culver City Police Department (CCPD) held a community forum to discuss its practices regarding immigration law enforcement. In light of today’s political climate, we call on the Culver City Council to affirm and protect CCPD’s approach.
CCPD does not currently enforce immigration law. Immigration law is separate from criminal law, and its enforcement is the federal government’s responsibility. As Chief Bixby explained, enforcing federal immigration law is not “a primary, secondary or tertiary function” of the CCPD.
Chief Bixby also explained that CCPD officers do not “arrest, detain, or transport persons solely on the basis of an immigration detainer or an administrative document issued by ICE or CBP.” They do not conduct surveillance based upon actual or perceived immigration status, nor do they inquire into anyone’s immigration or citizenship status. In other words, CCPD does not actively facilitate the enforcement of federal immigration law.
This is to be applauded.
By not participating in federal immigration law enforcement, CCPD better protects everyone in Culver City. CCPD officers stay focused on the prevention and reduction of crimes such as theft, domestic violence, and battery. And undocumented immigrants do not fear speaking with CCPD officers, which means they are more likely to report crimes and participate in criminal investigations. This improves policing and enhances public safety for all of us.
Why must the City Council now formally endorse the CCPD’s approach? According to a presidential executive order issued on January 25, 2017, the new administration wants local police officers to conduct immigration-related investigations and detain undocumented immigrants for the purpose of deportation. The executive order also defines any undocumented immigrant convicted, charged, or simply suspected of any crime as a priority for deportation.
The executive order does not and cannot force Culver City to change course. But if CCPD were to begin assisting the Trump administration, any undocumented immigrants investigated or arrested by a CCPD officer could be deported. Crimes as minor as driving without a license would trigger apprehension, detention, and transfer into the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
This would have two impacts upon our community. Our officers will be less focused on the crimes that harm us, and undocumented members of our community will fear our local police. This makes none of us safer.
Therefore, the City Council should affirm and protect the police department’s current approach. They can do so by passing a sanctuary resolution. Sanctuary status will not prevent CCPD from enforcing any criminal law. Instead, it keeps CCPD officers focused on their job by not getting them entangled with federal immigration priorities As Chief Bixby stated at the community meeting, “We are going to enforce the law equally for everyone, regardless of immigration status.”
It is time for the City Council to adopt a sanctuary policy that backs up the CCPD and keeps Culver City safe by rejecting the new administration’s drive to enlist local police officers in the federal government’s deportation work. We call on the City Council to do so at their March 27 meeting.
Kelly Lytle Hernandez
Culver City Action Network